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Wednesday Editorial: Who Will you Invite to the World Fantasy Convention?

Editorial: Who Will You Invite to the World Fantasy Convention?

Lavie Tidhar

A short while ago I talked about the World Fantasy Award, and the general lack of the “world” component in its nominations and winners. I briefly discussed the World Fantasy Convention, but it occurs to me it might be worthwhile to go back to it with some constructive suggestions. Scanning the list of guests of honour attending the WFC over the years (, I am struck by the almost total absence of guests who could be termed “world sf” writers. Perhaps amusingly, the 1984 WFC had “Fantasy: An International Genre” as its theme. The guests?

Guests of Honor: Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen

Guest Artist: Jeffrey Jones

Toastmaster: Spider Robinson

Chairmen: John Bell, Rodger Turner

International indeed!

Are things changing with the invitation of Serbian writer Zoran Živković for the 2009 convention? Could this event of earth-shattering proportions, almost the first in the convention’s entire history, be a sign of change? Could the World Fantasy Convention ever really be considered to stand up to its name?

Well, here at the WSNB we’re all about positive encouragement, and so, dear members of the WFC board, here are some suggestions for future guests. They may not be American – they may not be British – they may not even (gasp!) be Australian. They might not even write in English! And yet here are some of the world’s greatest fantasy writers – should they not be honoured in the same way?

A note to our readers: please do feel free to suggest additional guests in the comments section. The following is merely a preliminary list.

Sergei Lukyanenko (Russia)

Sergei Lukyanenko needs no introduction. The author of the Night Watch novels is arguably Russia’s best-known and most successful modern fantasy writer. With Night Watch and Day Watch being made into truly superb films, and with English-language publication of Lukyanenko’s novels in the UK and US, he must be at the top of the list.

Andrzej Sapkowski (Poland)

Finally, finally, English-language readers get to sample the delights European readers have known of for a long time. Enter Andrzej Sapkowski, Poland’s most successful fantasy writer, whose The Last Wish was finally translated into English and published by Gollancz in 2007. It was followed by Blood of Elves, also with Gollancz, in 2008 – and won its author his first English-language award (the inaugural Legend Award) the following year.

Diana Chaviano (Cuba)

This Cuban writer, one of the most well-regarded authors of genre fiction in Latin America, is not as easily available in English – 2008’s The Island of Eternal Love being her first novel in that language. It has been described as “the most translated Cuban novel of all time”. She was Guest of Honour at the 25th International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts.

Koji Suzuki (Japan)

This Japanese horror writer created the enormously popular Ringu, the novel that gave rise to both the Japanese film of the same name and the American adaptation. His books are widely available in English, including the collection Dark Water and the subsequent novels in the Ring cycle.

Johanna Sinisalo (Finland)

This Finnish writer had the almost unique distinction of being nominated for a Nebula Award, for short story “Baby Doll”. Novel Troll: A Love Story was also published in English. Winner of a Finlandia Award, she was also given a James Tiptree Jr. Award in 2004, edited The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, and is currently working on a science fiction movie project.

S.P. Somtow (Thailand)

The now-respectable Somtow Sucharitkul, composer and artistic director of the Bangkok Opera, is also the mastermind behind such modern classics as Vampire Junction, Jasmine Nights and “The Bird Catcher”, all as S.P. Somtow. He is unique for not only winning a World Fantasy Award but actually being a guest of honour once before. Educated in the UK, he had lived in the United States for many years before returning to Thailand. He won any number of awards, including the John W. Campbell for Best New Writer, and has recently returned to genre fiction with stories in Asimov’s magazine and plans for a new fantasy series.

Tunku Halim (Malaysia)

Once described as “Malaysia’s Stephen King”, Halim (currently residing in Australia) writes in English, yet his novels and short story collections have only appeared in Malaysia itself. A prolific author, mixing traditional Malay themes with modern, sometimes tongue-in-cheek tropes of horror fiction, he wrote A Children’s History of Malaysia, Juriah’s Song, 44 Cemetery Road and many others.

Ashok Banker (India)

Widely regarded as India’s best-known modern fantasy writer, Banker is also known for his less-than-flattering opinion of Western publishers (see our interview with him earlier on this blog!). Author of the phenomenally successful Ramayana series, he is now published exclusively in India and maintains an active web presence.

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December 9, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. How about Isabel Allende? (Chilean.) She’s probably typed as a magical realist, but she’s been reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She’s based in the USA, which would be helpful logistically.

    Comment by Gary Couzens | December 9, 2009

  2. I wanted to get Allende for this year’s World Fantasy – she lives near the Bay Area so it should have been easy. The story I got back was that she wanted an appearance fee.

    Sapkowski would be a wonderful guest for any convention. I met him at a con in France this year. His English is excellent and he’s a lot of fun.

    Comment by Cheryl | December 9, 2009

  3. Thanks, Cheryl. I might suggest Sapkowski for British Fantasycon. (I used to chair said organisation, for the record.)

    Comment by Gary Couzens | December 10, 2009

  4. My understanding is you have to have been working in the field for 20-25 years to be a GoH, so if that’s true then it would be something to consider re an international flavor. Also there’s the expense, but it seems there’s enough money there to always get at least one truly international guest.

    Comment by Jeff VanderMeer | December 10, 2009

    • >> my understanding is you have to have been working in the field for 20-25 years to be a GoH

      I’ve not seen a reference to that, Jeff, and I’m not sure it’s supported by past guests – looking at the list, Stephen King was a guest in 1979 – he would have been just 32 years old then. S.P Somtow would have been 37 when he was guest in 1989. Neither would have been working for 25 years in the field.

      In any case:
      a) some of the writers listed – Lukyanenko, Sapkowski – have been working for a long time (it’s only the English-language exposure that has happened more recently) and
      b) if there really is a rule, it can be changed. A rule to include one international guest in every convention would be nice…

      Though I’d be surprised if that actually happened.*

      * pleasantly surprised.

      Comment by lavietidhar | December 11, 2009

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